A University of Surrey academic is leading research that has found an effective, environmentally friendly way to monitor and remove pharmaceuticals from water. The research involves the detection and removal of pharmaceuticals in or from water, as contamination from pharmaceuticals can enter the aquatic environment as a result of their use for the treatment of humans and animals. This contamination can be excreted unchanged, as metabolites, as unused discharge or by drug manufacturers. The research has found that a new type of supermolecule, calix, actively seeks certain pharmaceuticals and removes them from water.
Contamination of water is a serious concern for environmental scientists around the world, as substances include hormones from the contraceptive pill and pesticides and herbicides from allotments. Contamination can also include toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium (which was previously used in paint) or substances that endanger vital species such as bees.
Three commonly used drugs have been investigated in this study. The first is Diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug currently used to treat painful conditions resulting from arthritis, sprains and strains, gout, migraine and other illnesses. Clofibric acid is known as the active metabolite of a number of drugs currently used to reduce the levels of cholesterol in blood. The third drug, aspirin, is one of the most frequently-used drugs, as it is an analgesic with pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties.